Alcohol may be more socially acceptable than other substances but it can lead to dangerous dependence and addiction. Withdrawal from alcohol use often triggers intense symptoms that can sometimes be life-threatening. A medication-assisted treatment program (MAT program) for alcohol abuse helps limit withdrawal symptoms by combining medications with behavioral therapy. Medication-assisted treatment plays an important role in sustaining recovery for many people working to stay sober from alcohol.
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol?
Medication-assisted treatment is a substance abuse treatment approach that uses a combination of targeted therapy and physician-supervised medications. MAT considers the whole person, considering the client’s physical and mental health needs. The medications used in MAT are specifically targeted to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms for addictive substances. MAT can be used at all stages of treatment, including detox, residential treatment, and outpatient programs.
Since alcohol can be highly physically addictive, MAT is often part of an alcohol use disorder treatment plan. MAT is also especially helpful for clients with co-occurring mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Each individual’s treatment plan is unique, and the specific alcohol use disorder treatment approach will be personalized to the client. Their plan will consider their history of alcohol use, other substances, and medical needs. The length of time clients participate in MAT will also vary. Some clients may only need medication during the initial stages of recovery, while others may continue medication for months or years.
When someone begins an alcohol use disorder treatment program, they will detox from addictive substances and have a medical evaluation with a physician. This evaluation will help determine whether MAT is a good choice, what medication the client needs, and what their dosage should be. Treatment plans will be reevaluated as the client progresses.
As a harm reduction approach, MAT has been proven to reduce the chances of relapse and increase the odds that someone will remain in treatment. Medication can reduce alcohol cravings significantly, which gives people a better shot at maintaining sobriety.
Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
It’s important to remember that medications are used to jump-start recovery and make the process easier; they don’t cure alcohol use disorder alone. Medications are combined with therapy, counseling, and other behavioral interventions. Not every medication will work for every client.
The most common medications used in alcohol use disorder treatment are
disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate.
- Disulfiram – Creates uncomfortable side effects when someone consumes alcohol. It acts as a deterrent to alcohol consumption and can be very effective in detox and early recovery.
- Naltrexone – Blocks the euphoria that someone gets after drinking alcohol. Also used to combat opioid use disorder, naltrexone can also work to suppress alcohol’s effects.
- Acamprosate – This is a medication usually prescribed after someone has gone through detox and withdrawal. Acamprosate limits alcohol cravings by stabilizing brain activity, reducing the brain’s alcohol dependence, and restoring the brain to normal functioning.
Therapy and Counseling at MAT Centers
Counseling plays a significant role in alcohol use disorder treatment, whether medication is used or not. With medication-assisted treatment for alcohol, medication can help clients manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms so they can participate more fully in behavioral therapy.
Therapy addresses the underlying causes of substance abuse. Not only do clients work to understand the roots of their addiction, they learn coping skills and techniques that can help them handle distressing life events without drinking. In therapy sessions, clients identify their goals and plan how they will stick with positive lifestyle changes.
Group counseling helps clients find a supportive community of others recovering from substance use disorders. Group sessions may take various forms, including 12-step programs, skills development groups, and groups that use specific therapy methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Help and Hope at Southern Sky Recovery
Our alcohol addiction treatment program is designed to give each client the best recovery outcome possible. If medication is part of your treatment plan, your treatment team will work with you to ensure you’re on the proper medication and receiving the correct dose. But medication is only part of your personalized treatment plan; you’ll also attend therapy sessions, work on your specific goals, and connect with supportive peers. You’ll be able to recover in an empathetic environment with people who are rooting for your success.